“Crazy Rich Asians” Review: a milestone for diversity in Hollywood

By pushing past Hollywood’s racial boundaries, Crazy Rich Asians offers something new and exciting for everyone, especially Asian-Americans.


Gauri Kaushik

The first big Hollywood release with an all-Asian cast since the Joy Luck Club in 1993, Crazy Rich Asians has created waves throughout the film industry and in Asian-American communities. As such, the movie had high expectations for its much anticipated release on August 15. And, if box office returns are anything to go by, it reached far beyond those expectations for many viewers, raking in $34 million over its five-day opening weekend.

Based on Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name, Crazy Rich Asians is the romance-filled and dramatic story of Rachel Chu, a young Chinese-American woman who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young. She is surprised to discover that Nick is one of the most eligible bachelors on the island, coming from an absurdly rich family. Trouble comes in the form of Nick’s disapproving mother and criticism from other members of his family’s social circle. With great actors and a classically simple, yet exciting plot, Crazy Rich Asians brings  something new and fresh to the table.

Constance Wu’s portrayal of Rachel Chu offers the audience a different type of female lead, especially for a romance – she’s a smart, self-sufficient economy professor at NYU and brought up by a single mother. Throughout the movie, Chu proves to have a strong backbone and makes tough, carefully thought-out decisions, rather than letting her love for Nick blind her. In interviews leading up to the film, Wu proved to be similar to her character— a spirited and confident young Chinese-American woman— and these similarities shine  through in her portrayal of Chu. A highlight of the film was American rapper Awkwafina’s hysterical role as Chu’s college best friend, Peik Lin. Her character added a comedic element to the film in her ability to make light-hearted comments in tense situations.

Although the movie faced backlash for casting a half-British, half-Malaysian actor as the male romantic lead, newcomer Henry Golding’s Nick Young could have charmed even the harshest critic. Golding’s confidence in his own identity as an Asian while facing the criticism could be seen in his powerful presence on screen.

Despite the outstanding acting and developed plotline, Crazy Rich Asians lacked in what it was supposed to excel at — bringing the Asian community together. By depicting only one ethnic subgroup of Singapore, the movie polarized other Asian communities by disregarding Singapore’s diverse culture.  Director Jon Chu missed what could have been used as an opportunity to include Singapore’s minorities — namely people of Indian and Sri Lankan origin, who make up a sizable portion of the country’s population. The few brown-skinned characters that are seen are placed in positions of service, catering to the Chinese elite. Although it is a huge milestone for Hollywood and Asian-Americans, there is still a long way to go for diversity.

In spite of the flaws, there is good reason for this movie’s huge success in both the box office and for the Asian-American community. It contradicts the stereotypical Asian roles that are so often seen when Hollywood attempts to diversify a cast by giving the audience more than a quirky, fresh-off-the-boat and heavily-accented nerd. Crazy Rich Asians is a glimpse into the world of the obscenely rich and the family and class dynamics that play into the traditions of old money Asian families. It’s a step in the right direction towards a more open and ethnically diverse movie scene in Hollywood.